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Passenger rail agency fails to meet capex targets

23rd July 2021

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA’s) capital expenditure (capex) programme has failed to meet its targets, says CEO Zolani Matthews.

“Sadly, this has also affected PRASA’s modernisation programme.

“Fortunately, the challenge in the space only requires internal capacity to resolve.”

Earlier this month, Matthews delivered his 100-day report card as the new head of the troubled State-owned rail entity, while also providing details on PRASA’s capex programme.

“We have amplified our supply-chain management policy, together with its standard operating procedures,” he noted.

“To this extent, we have appointed competent colleagues to serve [on] our bid committees to finalise specifications, evaluations and adjudications.”

Matthews said that PRASA had, “in recent times”, issued “numerous packages and projects” as part of the targeted implementation of its capex programme.

“It is a targeted implementation because we want to ensure that the projects we implement address our immediate challenges and pass our capex priority model.”

Matthews said that, since his appointment in February, he had approved, and submitted to the PRASA board, a number of projects.

These include the appointment of designers for the rail reserve fencing programme for the Mabopane (Gauteng) and Central (Cape Town) lines; the refurbishment of the substations servicing these lines; the refurbishment/renewal of the overhead track equipment for these lines; the supply and delivery of 48 kg/m rail nationally; the procurement of maintenance support services for PRASA’s rolling stock; and the appointment of design consultants for the Salt River (Cape Town), Durban and Springfield (KwaZulu-Natal) depots.

“We will also ensure that all the projects we are issuing to the markets, once they are awarded, will be monitored, with the benefits tracked to demonstrate the total value of the projects to the business and the community we serve,” noted Matthews.

“I have established the iSitimela saBantu Project Office – a PRASA-wide coordination of projects and unlocking of bottlenecks for accelerated delivery of station, network and rolling stock rehabilitation, with an estimated investment of R12-billion for the current fiscal year.”

Partnership with Presidency
When the President’s Investment and Infrastructure unit announced its projects and programmes at its launch in 2020, PRASA was unfortunately not mentioned, noted Matthews.

“This was a demonstration of how South Africans in general have lost faith in brand PRASA – this will certainly change.

“I have established contact with Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa around PRASA’s infrastructure plans and how this should form part of the national discourse.”

Ramokgopa is the head of the Investment and Infrastructure Office in the Presidency.

“PRASA will henceforth be part of the solution to assist with government’s priorities on expenditure, employment and economic recovery,” said Matthews.

“We will also ensure that, within these parameters, PRASA takes forward the resolution of the African Union of 2014 to create South Africa as a rail manufacturing hub.

“This initiative will place PRASA as a key part of government’s industrial plan.”

Asset Register
PRASA’s group CFO has established an asset verification team to undertake and finalise a comprehensive asset verification process, said Matthews.

This exercise should culminate in an updated asset register and is scheduled for completion later this year.

“PRASA is an asset-intensive organisation and there is no reason why we cannot account for our assets,” said Matthews.

PRASA has also initiated a records and document management project, in line with the recently approved document management policy, he added.

“The records and document management project entails the backscanning of all proprietary documents, cloud computing and achieving compliance with the applicable legislation.”

Matthews said PRASA continued to engage with law enforcement agencies and Chapter 9 institutions as part of an effort to address the weaknesses in its governance structures, as well as to stop the “malfeasance which has been besetting PRASA in recent times”.

“The reality is that there are people in PRASA who have become comfortable in doing wrong things, and the fact is that no serious action has been taken against them – they are in for a rude awakening.”

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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